How to write a functional or competency-based resume

Regardless of whether you are just entering the world of work or have been working for years, your résumé is one of the most important documents for the further development of your career. As an initial introduction to your skills and personality, you want your resume to accurately reflect what you are capable of.

You may have been told that a résumé is intended to represent your work history in reverse chronological order. For someone who has taken a traditional route to advancing their career, this can be the best way to outline your accomplishments and relevant skills.

However, a reverse chronological resume isn’t for everyone. Sometimes a functional or competency-based resume just makes more sense.

But what exactly is a competency-based or functional resume and when should it be used? Let’s summarize if this is the type of resume that you would like to consider.

What is a functional or competency-based resume?

A functional résumé, is also known as a competency-based resume, describes your skills and professional achievements rather than your work experience. While it still includes a brief overview of the places you’ve worked and your job titles, the main points of your resume will focus on your skills – not your employment history.

In various circumstances, a functional resume makes more sense than a traditional reverse chronological resume. Let’s take a look at some of them.

When should a functional or competency-based resume be used?

Not everyone should use a functional or competency-based resume. Since it is structured differently, it may not always be well received when applying for a new position.

However, depending on your situation, the position you are applying for, and your previous work experience, a functional resume can help better showcase your qualifications.

Here are some scenarios you might want to go into Use a functional or competency-based resume instead of a reverse chronological curriculum vitae:

  • You want to change your career. If you’ve spent most of your working years in an industry unrelated to the industry you’re about to break into, you may feel like your experience is being wasted. However, having a functional resume allows you to focus on what you have learned during that time and how it applies to the new industry to prove that you are qualified to make the transition.
  • You have mainly filled short-term or temporary positions. One thing hiring managers will be looking for is solid work experience. If you’ve spent most of your working years on fixed-term contracts or struggling to find the right “fit”, your résumé may be peppered with short-term positions. A competency-based resume allows you to focus everything you have learned from these jobs and put it in a less overwhelming format.
  • You did a lot of volunteering. Many people underestimate the skills volunteering can develop – especially if you are part of a committee or planning team. If you’ve done extensive volunteering or held a leadership position within the community, you have likely acquired more than a few skills that you would like to include on your resume. A functional résumé gives you the opportunity to do so.
  • You have taken a long-term break from work. Large gaps in a resume can be a potential red flag for HR managers. Whether you are taking time out to raise a family, help an aging family member, or just pursue your passion, you want to show that the time you spent outside of the traditional workforce wasn’t wasted. By creating a competency-based resume, you can focus on these developments.
  • You are new to the workforce. If you are in the process of looking for your first real job, you may not have any experience at all. However, when you’re just starting out, there are times when you need to get creative about your actual experience. Using a competency-based resume allows you to focus on the things you’ve learned throughout your school years and how they affect the position, even if you don’t have hands-on experience.

A functional resume is great whenever you feel like your work experience doesn’t reflect exactly what you can accomplish. If you want to outline your skills in order to apply to a company, consider creating a competency-based resume for your application.

How to create a competency-based resume

When you create a traditional reverse chronological resume it’s pretty easy to organize your work lists. However, when you create a competency-based resume you have a little more room to get creative.

Here are some important steps Follow these instructions to ensure you are creating a competency-based resume that accurately describes your skills:

  1. Choose the right skills. Every time you decide on a functional resume, you want to be sure that the skills you are offering apply directly to the position you are applying for. Make a list of your skills, pick the right skills, and move the most important ones to the top of the page.
  2. Create declarations of performance. Just like a traditional resume, you’ll want to provide practical examples of the times these skills have been used. Describe your accomplishments, the results, and how you used your skills to achieve those results.
  3. Have a mission statement. A mission statement is incredibly important to a functioning résumé. Since it may not be immediately apparent why you’re applying for the position, you’ll want to let the hiring manager know what you’re looking for. Including a mission statement in the resume summary at the top of the page can improve your chances of getting an interview.
  4. Don’t forget your work history. Even if a functional resume doesn’t focus on your work history, you’ll still want to include it somewhere on the page. With a competency-based resume, a quick overview of your job titles, position, and time spent there is usually enough to give a hiring manager an idea.
  5. Add your “extras”. On a functional resume, you always want to include any awards, volunteering, education, job affiliation, certifications, or items that you may have. Make sure you set a section on your resume for any “extras” that indicate your qualifications, experience or skills.

As with a reverse chronological resume, here too you can be a little creative with how you style your details. However, you always want to put the most important information at the top. Never assume that the hiring manager will read the entire page of your resume. So make sure that whatever information you want him to see is as high as possible.

Example of a competency-based resume

Here is an example of a competency-based resume created using Resumonk’s bold template:

Example of a functional or competency-based resume

Here is the text version of the skills-based resume example above:


Jane C. Doe
123 Avenue Street, City, NY, 11111
Phone: 555-123-4567
Email: (Email protected)

Highly energetic people looking for a fulfilling job in the sales and marketing industry. A passion for customer service, working with people, and a proven track record of helping others make challenging decisions.

Main strengths: leadership, communication, attention to detail, problem solving and team building.



  • Voluntarily as president of the local chapter of the XYZ organization. As president, I helped coordinate 123 events and oversaw a local organization of 100 people. Successfully run meetings, events and fundraisers to help organize / start up.
  • I held a leadership position where I organized schedules and daily activities for a team of ten other people. Included is the primary source of support, as well as training and monitoring.


  • As president of the local chapter of the XYZ organization, I have sent correspondence to 1,000 members worldwide. Weekly virtual meetings with fellow local presidents.


  • Member of the ABC Professional Organization
  • Recipient of the National Presidents Award
  • Certified in ABC Professional Development for 2017


  • Project manager, XXX Company, Fall 2015 current
  • Supervisor, JJJ company, spring 2013 – autumn 2015
  • Cashier, ZZZ Store, Winter 2012 – Spring 2013


  • Bachelor of Science, State University, 2012


Create your functional resume

Don’t be overly intimidated when creating your functional resume. While it might feel a bit unnatural to go against the traditional way of creating a resume, a functional resume can help prove that you are qualified for the position. With the right information, you can get a job that you never thought possible.

Consider the key pieces of information a hiring manager might want to see when looking at your resume. Even if you don’t have the direct work experience to demonstrate that you have these qualifications, find another skill or relevant achievement that can prove you know how to do this style of task.

Remember that your functional resume should be tailored to the specific position you are applying for. Make sure you step it up, change skills, and adjust your performance spheres to reflect the things the company is looking for in the position it is trying to fill. Tailoring your message to the needs of the position and the hiring manager can increase your chances of getting through to the first interview.

If you don’t have the professional qualifications to apply for a job that you think you will be great at, don’t let that stop you.

Create a stunning functional resume with Resumonk to get noticed, prove your credentials, and get the job.

Published by Sarah Landrum


Millennial career expert Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and founder of Punched Clocks, a career and lifestyle blog for millennials looking for career happiness and success.